Associated Press, September 2, 2004
Family planning groups: Bush
has undermined women's health worldwide
DATELINE: LONDON -- U.S. President George W.
Bush is undermining women's reproductive rights
and health around the world with policies that
have caused thousands of unwanted pregnancies,
unnecessary deaths and HIV infections, delegates
at a conference on population and development
The representatives delivered a scathing attack
on the Bush administration's promotion of abstinence
over condoms for AIDS prevention and its withdrawal
of funding from the United Nations Population
Fund and groups around the world that provide
abortions or abortion counseling.
Such policies, they said, have made the United
States an impediment rather than a force for
progress on improving reproductive health and
are putting millions of women's lives at risk.
"We were once a beacon of hope," said
Tim Wirth, a former Democratic U.S. senator
from Colorado and now president of the United
Nations Foundation, a group that funds U.N.
"To watch this erode so dramatically in
the last few years where the United States
is now part of what one of our colleagues has
called the axis of bigotry, ... it's just extraordinary
to me," he said. "We used to be such
a force for good, and we have now become this
reactionary force around the world."
Wirth - whose wife Wren is a close friend of
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's
wife Teresa Heinz Kerry - was an undersecretary
of state under former U.S. President Bill Clinton
and led the American delegation to the 1994
United Nations summit in Cairo on slowing world
Advocates who gathered in London this week to
evaluate progress toward the Cairo meeting's
20-year goals said much had been accomplished.
But far more money is needed if targets on
reducing deaths in pregnancy and childbirth,
improving sexual health and slowing population
growth are to be met.
The Cairo summit won a surprising consensus for
its demand of equality for women, including
through access to birth control. It argued
that boosting education, health care and economic
opportunities for women would slow population
The London gathering, organized by the International
Planned Parenthood Federation and other advocacy
groups and supported by the U.N. Population
Fund, said that although the world's population
has grown from 5.6 billion to 6.4 billion since
1994, the rate of increase has slowed considerably.
But with half the world's people under 25, the
growth rate is still high, the meeting said.
While the Cairo conference called on governments
to spend US$17 billion a year by 2000 toward
its goals, only US$9.6 billion was spent in
2001, the London meeting said.
AIDS and HIV pose a far greater danger now than
they did 10 years ago, but rich countries'
contributions to fight the disease's spread
was US$1.8 billion last year, far less than
the US$10 billion needed, the conference said.
And while between 75 percent and 84 percent of
couples in industrialized countries use modern
forms of birth control, only 10 percent of
couples in sub-Saharan Africa do, it said.
It added that 201 million women around the
world lack access to safe contraception.
Steven Sinding, director-general of the International
Planned Parenthood Federation, said Bush had
made progress far more difficult.
"In a reversal of its historic role, my
own country (the United States) has emerged
as one of the most significant obstacles to
progress," he said. "The current
administration has no compunction about bending
scientific fact and hard evidence to suit its
Since 2002, the U.S. government has blocked US$34
million in annual support to the U.N. Population
Fund, saying it contributes to coerced abortions
in China, a charge that the agency has long
The U.N. Population Fund has insisted it could
have used the U.S. funding to prevent 2 million
unwanted pregnancies and nearly 800,000 abortions.
Two days after taking office in 2001, Bush reinstated
a policy that denies U.S. overseas aid to nonprofit
groups that perform abortions or provide abortion
<< Associated Press -- 9/2/04 >>
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